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DOs and DON’Ts of Creating OCs.

I'm not a brilliant or fantasmically talented writer, but I know a decent OC when I see one. Or at least a non-crappy one.
I think we know how this works. Here we go…


1. DO – Try to vary your OCs’ personalities. In the real world, if everyone had the same awesome, flawless character, life would be mind-numbingly BORING. Also, not everyone is nice/horrible/depressed/energetic all the time. (Unless, of course, you want to use that as a flaw.)

2. DON’T – get too hung up on making profiles for your characters. Profiles are for procrastinators who want to make a fantastic character without getting started on the actual story. I was guilty of it too, before I realised how boring filling out the same form over and over again was.
Try describing them in the story, THEN make notes to help you remember stupid boring details like their star-sign and eye colour so you don’t accidentally change them halfway through the story.
A profile looks like this.

Name: Barb Dwyer
Age: 17 ½
Star sign: Who cares?
Hair: Pink and Purple, long and straight
Eyes: Lilac and green depending on her mood
Favourite food: Ponies (wait, what?)

ZZZ, right? But there’s nothing in there that you can’t just as easily develop by using the story. Don’t believe me? Look.

Barb Dwyer sat gracefully in one of the plastic chairs dotted around the café. She flicked her chemically enhanced pink bangs out of her eyes as she took another bite of her pony-burger, her large lilac eyes briefly flashing with a strange green light.
“Your hair is so long!” her friend Madison exclaimed enviously.
“I know” sighed Barb, her eyes returning to their natural colour. “I’m thinking about getting a perm.”

Ok, so if I actually read this in a story I would lose my lunch, not to mention my faith in mankind, but you get the idea.

3. DO – avoid making all of your characters into Zoolander (really, really, ridiculously good-looking) unless there’s a specific reason, like the story is set in Japan where everybody is a cross-dressing, pretty J-rocker (har de har har) or they’re vampires. ‘Cause we all know that bloodsuckers are automatically hawt.

Also, try varying their ages a little when appropriate. While two women working in the same hair salon might have different tastes in fashion, one might be a bit older and more classy, and one might be young and hip. It helps prevent you from turning your story into a Japanese RPG game – fun and colourful, but with characters all the same age and far too pretty for their own good.

4. DON’T – Just insert your OC into a fandom and then make the fandom revolve around them. People read fan-fiction because they’re FANS. Meaning the only people they want the fandom to revolve around are their own OCs. Or maybe (god forbid) the CHARACTERS.

5. DO – take the time to research the countries your OCs were born/raised in if you are not already familiar with them. For example, someone who grew up in Romania will quite possibly have a different upbringing to someone who grew up in Arkansas.

6. DON’T – spend forever on a character’s name. Out of all the names in the world, don’t be so pretentious as to believe that there is only ONE that could possibly be just right for your character, for Pete’s sake. Names are nice, but there are a hundred and one other more important things for you to be bleating on about. Like, for instance, THE PLOTLINE.
Very few people have the perfect name, and even fewer actually like their own. Mine sounds like something out of a Jane Austin novel, and not in a good way. My point is, names aren’t really all that important.

7. DO – Give your villain(s) a motive for their… (Villainousness? Villainry? Villianousery?) …evilness. Do they want revenge on the hero? Does the hero pose a threat to them? Do they want something from the hero? Power? Fame? Lusty wenches? If all else fails, bad people often like money. It might not be the most original plot device, (understatement of the century) but hey, at least it makes them human.

8. DON’T – be upset if someone says they’d hate your character in real life. Decent characters get bashed every day, like Misa Amane. (Well I liked her.)
Some characters are even made to be hated, like Holden Caulfield and Mr Darcy… screw it, everyone loves Mr Darcy, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t want to round-house kick him in the face if they met him in real life.

9. DO – try to refrain from using your OC to fulfil your own sexual fantasies with either existing fandom characters or other OCs of your design. I know it’s hard, darlings, but nothing grinds my gears more than reading something fairly decently written only to discover that halfway through it turns into trashy soft porn that might have been written by a love-struck thirteen year-old, except with better syntax.

10. DON’T – copy from an existing fandom of ANY kind when you’re running low on ideas. I’ve had a friend stealing stuff from the Final Fantasy series (and various anime), and trust me, it was nasty. It’s not worth it, dudes. You will be caught eventually and probably flamed. DON’T DO IT.

11. DO – write lots of yummy original slash – oops, did I say that out loud?

…Oh, who cares? Nobody takes this junk seriously anyway, so I might as well have fun with it. Smut’s more fun when you’ve never ‘met’ the characters before, as dodgy as  that may sound. It’s like going to a bar, getting utterly legless and letting your friends hire a pair of strippers for you and I’m going to stop now before this gets any more out of hand.


12. DON’T – feel that you have to give your hero (I really should say ‘protagonist’; it sounds much fancier) a traumatic past just so he can measure up to already existing protagonists. Nor do they have to have a traumatic past in order to qualify for a few bouts of angst throughout the story. People angst for different reasons, although someone orphaned at birth would probably angst more than a contractor who just got fired.

13. DO – Ask older people (preferably more experienced writers) if your OC is ‘believable’ and if there’s anything you can do to give them a little more depth. Don’t ask your best friend or someone you only know online, or anyone like that. It doesn’t matter if they’re the best writer you know; if they’re not older than you (assuming you’re a teenager or whatever) then they’re probably not going to have much more life experience than you, which defeats the whole point of asking them.

14. DON’T – give your character a European accent just because it's 'sexy'. People from Ireland, Australia and Britain also have accents. People from India, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, everywhere in the WORLD has its own unique accent! All you Americans, drive into the next state and chances are you'll be hearing an accent way different from your own.(I've never met anyone from The Czech Republic, but I'm sure their accent is cool too.) If you're going to make a character from another country, then make it part of their identity properly. And I don't just mean a French person that likes baguettes - give them a little quirk that comes from their culture - apparently shoving your hand in someone's face is super insulting in Greece. I read that on the internet. See, it's not hard to look these things up. (I wouldn't recommend getting your dirty paws up in ANYONE'S grill, by the way.)

Writing bits of accents here and there is nice too - like someone with a Cockney accent saying 'wiv' (with) and 'luv' (love). Just don't go overboard, especially if your dialogue-writing skills aren't that great already - and REALLY don't go overboard if you haven't got a clue about how the accent works. Or you'll just come off as, at worst, a mouth-breathing basement-dwelling racist, and at best, a bit daft.

15. DO – experiment with your OCs! Make all kinds of different characters, practice writing them interacting with each other, socialising, doing whatever… (Mowing the lawn, drinking coffee, arm wrestling…) it doesn’t matter if all you end up with is a few pages of illegible crap – no one’s going to read it, even you. It's just to get a feel for the characters and get those ideas flowing.

16. DON’T – describe all of your characters down to the last, most insignificant detail in the first paragraph/page/chapter of your story. (Or ever.) There’s NOTHING fun about being force-fed every single boring detail about someone when you hardly know them, and it leaves you thinking ‘wow, I just totally lost interest in this story.’ I’m not even kidding.
A good idea is to focus mainly on the characters’ most distinctive characteristics. Anne Rice (amongst like a million other writers, but I like her best) does this, and not necessarily in the same paragraph. What I liked about the way she described Lestat in ‘The Vampire Lestat’ was unearthing (pun intended!) little bits and pieces about his physical appearance throughout the book, leaving you to imagine the rest for yourself. Although that was in the first person, and nobody goes around talking at length about how they look… unless they’re REALLY narcissistic.

Now then, how about a lesson in picking out specific and interesting traits to describe in someone?
For example, let’s take a look at Owen Wilson, the actor. First of all, he’s blonde. It’s obvious, but if we’re describing him to someone who has never seen him before in their life, it’s a good start.

“Owen Wilson is a blond actor.”

Now, we could say that he is white, (and male, for that matter) but since we’ve established that he’s a natural blonde, we don’t really have to. Also, his name is Owen, making him quite obviously a man, see? Be selective.

Now, what about his face? Well, he often looks like he’s in desperate need of a razor, so let’s mention his stubble.

“Owen Wilson is a blond actor with prickly stubble sprouting from his chin.”

Wow, that doesn’t sound very attractive, but don’t worry! Let’s carry on. Now let’s have a look at his eyes – the windows into the soul, if you will. Ok, if you were a rabid fangirl, you’d probably start spouting some rot about his eyes being ‘gentle and kind and serene’… ew, right? Slushier than snow in London. How about keeping our wits about us and actually looking at the man like a human being, hmm?
Ok, so his eyes crinkle up when he smiles – well, doesn’t that say a lot about his personality?

“Owen Wilson is a blond actor with prickly stubble sprouting from his chin. The laughter lines around his eyes betray his good sense of humour.”

So there you have it – two short sentences describing the man fairly clearly, and we haven’t even mentioned his nose yet!
So it’s not a very well-written description, but the syntax and flowery prose is up to you. It’s a damn sight better than three paragraphs describing his freckles or something equally as mundane.

17. DO – feel free to be a little more descriptive when you write short stories. Although spending more than a paragraph describing any single character is pushing it. Unless they’re really, really, ridiculously good loo- um, important.  

18. DON’T – rant forever about a new, awesome OC you’ve created and then never write a story with them in it. Writing can’t be forced, but why go to all that trouble making a new plaything and never actually playing with it? ‘Sides, getting round to starting a story is harder than actually writing it.
Mary-sues are a fact of life, just like ‘girly-boys have the most annoying fangirls’ and 'If you play the cello you will probably get laid'.
Awesome characters are like the toys you used to get in kinder surprise eggs. (Before they turned to shit. Dammit, I used to get the coolest stuff in those eggs.)

Edit: DO - read Dreamdeer's comments about #1 and #12, RIGHT NOW. Especially #12. Unless you'd rather take my word as gospel, which doesn't bother me in the slightest. DO IT.

Edit #2: I've edited rule #1, having educated myself on a number of things (Shut up, reading Christopher Hitchens counts as education!) since my discussion with Dreamdeer. Not that anyone notices these things or anything.
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Deviator101 Featured By Owner 3 days ago
What about if someone models an OC on another OC by someone but has differences in personality and slight variations in style of dress?
Llawlietz Featured By Owner 2 days ago
It's better to base characters on real people than other characters IMO.

But if you do base it off another person's character, then put some thought into *why*. What about the other person's OC do you like? How can you give them MORE depth, rather than just paring stuff back and risking making them two-dimensional? 

When people say things like "This isn't >established character!< she wears a hoodie and sneakers instead of a blouse and sandals and she is standoffish instead of friendly! " (and that's like the ONLY differences) I cringe a little. Because even a 'rushed' character you've built yourself has the potential to grow and take on a life of their own rather than stay a cardboard cutout of someone else's OC. Respect other people's (and your own) work, basically.

Hope this made sense to you and helped!
Deviator101 Featured By Owner Edited 2 days ago
Okay so I'm actually trying to help a new friend determine whether an OC he's made modeled after another OC is a legimate OC. The differences I've been able to uncover about the OC and the model she's based on are thus. The model is a domintrix and has a somewhat different style of dress. The OC is a kind and compassionate ruler of a kingdom of latex and bondage and wears a big bondage ball. He also provides links to the original pics so I'm wondering if thats a case of him giving credit where credit is due. His character also hasn't grown much as from what I can tell she's relatively new. As I write a story about her with this guy it seems I'm helping to add to her personality and character. It should also be noted that I'm more concerned about the potential copyrights. In a nutshell, when does one persons OC inspired by another persons OC go from being an OC inspired by the other OC, to an outright copy of the original OC?
Llawlietz Featured By Owner 1 day ago
Hah, okay, I getcha. I'm definitely not the person you should be asking about copyright, for that you'd have to go to someone who actually *knows* stuff!

Your last question is super hard to answer cause there's no hard line. Like we could get into the philosophy of what is and isn't original and law vs. ethics when it comes to borrowing other people's property, but I doubt it would help you much!

Here, take a look at this -…
You can see how it's done in established fandoms and I think it will be a lot more helpful than I am!
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ArgonMinecraft101 Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2015  New Deviant
That sounds a bit like what my engineering teacher says when the class is working on dimensioning a drawing.
CrossOverConsverse Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Love me some pony burger.
NekoVision Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2014
This guide will be useful!
littleblueraccoon Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2014  Student Writer
This made me laugh so many times, especially the Zoolander joke! Good advice, by the way. :)
Anastasia-Frost Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2013
I think my OC is ok
EpicnessOfArt Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2013
Thank you so much for posting this. It's super helpful, I came across this before I joined DA, and following you tips transformed my writing from something that sounded like badly written fanfiction (no offense to fanfiction, I really like it, and read them a lot :) ) into something much better, and more original with better developed characters. I still have a long way to go with my writing skills, but you really helped me get a better start. Thanks again!
Llawlietz Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2013
Hey, glad it helped! Have you posted any of your writing on DA?
EpicnessOfArt Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2013
Not yet, but I plan to soon. :)
DaylenTheShipper Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013
I have a question.

Could you make a good Fanfiction with all the characters in it with your OC? Like if it's well planned and all. I wan't to do that, but I'm worried to do so.
Llawlietz Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2013
IMO, sure, there are heaps of good fanfics with original characters in them. I read a really good FFVII one a long time ago where the author had filled out the backstories of the canon characters and given them family members and such. I think it's called 'Stake Out' or something.

Anyway, you shouldn't be worried, haha. It's just fanfiction. You're doing it as much for your own enjoyment as anyone else, so unless you write like a chimp with a typewriter, you'll be sweet :)
DaylenTheShipper Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2013
:) Thanks, I was curious before I started, thanks again! :iconglompplz:
dancingsnowangels Featured By Owner May 12, 2012
Wow this is really insightful, at least I now know that my friend's story that she is working on is well written and not over descriptive.
Dreamdeer Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2012
Actually, while Mother Teresa was always inspiring, she became much more likely to inspire fictionalization when it came out, after her death, that this magnificent woman struggled, for her entire life, with chronic depression. The most admirable heroes overcome something.

As for traumas, the laid-off construction worker is much more likely to do something rash and interesting than the orphan, who isn't too surprised when life deals him a rough turn. Trauma that happens right in the story can make some of the best turns--like "The Count of Monte Cristo", who starts out a fairly boring and naive young do-gooder. Only when betrayal and years of hopeless prison twist him utterly and he comes back for vengeance does he become fascinating.

(Of course, I'm a bit of a hypocrite, here. My Til stories operate on the premise that Til Institute rescues traumatized children from all over the world so as to harness and redirect their neuroses in raising them to become heroes. I just had to try my hand at idealistic cynicism, or cynical idealism, or whatever you want to call it.)
Llawlietz Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2012
Hi, thanks for your comments! It's always nice to hear from someone that's actually thought about their reply.
I actually did read something interesting recently about Mother Teresa's struggles and loss of faith, and to be honest I'd totally forgotten I'd mentioned her here.

I might actually leave her in though, and find a way to direct readers to your comment. Do you know any way to do this?
Dreamdeer Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2012
I haven't got a clue, I'm afraid. Although I joined DeviantArt a year ago, I've only recently started actually showing up. I'm stumbling around randomly and happened on your article by accident.
Llawlietz Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2012
Aw bummer! I'll just have to put a note at the bottom and wait for a smarty pants to enlighten me!
Woohoorandom Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
*shuffles in*
Uhm, If you click the date the comment was posted, you can get a link to the comment chain... If that was what you were wondering...
Llawlietz Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2013
Eyyy! I knew someone smarter than me would come along eventually! Cheers mate!
VanilleNoire Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Amazingly written... I like that you mentioned Czech Republic :D our accent is cool, of course :D
NinjaTeddiesGalore Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Really helpful, thanks!
And I love the way you type xD
kisapedra Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2011
Great, very helpful. But one thing, Czechoslovakia is two countries since like 1993 (or something) and their called Czech Republic and Slovakia! :D So many people seem to forget about it.
Llawlietz Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2011
Whoops! Thanks for the correction! And to think, Czech Republic is a hundred times easier to spell!
kisapedra Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2011
No problem, and yeah, I know.
Kashira8552 Featured By Owner Sep 4, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
This is awesomely written, from the Zoolander references to the concise tips and classy examples. It makes me want to check out the rest of your gallery, too!
ForeverZeroDragon Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
peacemakerwarfreak Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2011  Professional General Artist
This is really helpful thanks! :)
MoonXD Featured By Owner May 28, 2011
Some very good points!
but i must admit that if a bad thing exist, it has happened to one of my characters..
I so agree with nr 9! i have been reading a few times and then suddenly BAM! *some things can just never be unread, and they will follow you forever*
DragonLord-Rhea Featured By Owner May 18, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
hey! your tutorial is permanently featued in this-> [link]
I thought you might want to know ;p
Llawlietz Featured By Owner May 21, 2011
Awesome, thank you! But... the link 404s when I click it?
DragonLord-Rhea Featured By Owner May 22, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
really? it works for me...
here it is again anyway~ [link]
Pocket-fulla-shells Featured By Owner May 15, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
A twist I made to the 'tortured past' was make him have a great past and a very comfortable life for a backstory, which ends up contributing to his glumness in the present, and goes to great lengths to try and return to the style of life he used to have.

Also, I loled at point 9. When people do that, the facepalms fly.
Llawlietz Featured By Owner May 21, 2011
Hey nice! I'd be glum too, if I had it all and then... well... didn't. =P
faster-by-choice Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow, that is so descriptive...there were several things I already knew about this subject, but I also found out some things I didn't know, like that you shouldn't describe a character all in one paragraph right down to the last insignificant detail. This taught me a lot. And why doesn't this thing have a DD yet?
Llawlietz Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2011
Hey, thanks! Have fun with it though. =)
SunnyMoon-X Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2009
I do admit, I'm one of those people who like to torture their OC with a sad past(sick pleasure :iconinnocentplz: ) but I don't over do it.

And i noticed something... theres more people saying why their Ocs AREN'T mary sues than actual ocs....
icecheetah Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2009
There are some very good points here.
MiniGuinny Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2009
The part on smut made me want to hunt you down and have your children.


Did I just say that? Anyways, sorry if I creeped you out, but this is a really good guide. Even as a writer whose been making OCs for a long time, it's always good to see a refreshing guide that doesn't just beat the same three freaking things into your head that you've been taught over the years. :D
Llawlietz Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2009
neh heh heh, no worries! It'll take more than that to creep me out XD
but thankyou, that's what I was going for and I'm glad you found it helpful!
DemonRei Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2009
"really, really, ridiculously good-looking"

...Thanks for making me read that and the rest of the Do and Don't in Zoolander's voice, even though I've never seen all of that movie. xD
Llawlietz Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2009
oh, you are QUITE welcome *evil grin*
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